The economic week ahead: Balancing hope and fear

A series of key economic releases in the United States, Europe's latest growth figures, India's inflation numbers and South Africa's retail sales numbers will dominate a busy data calendar this week.

Markets will also watch for word on the European Central Bank's evolving plans to address the continent's debt woes, additional information on Spain's external funding needs, and clarification on Greece's ability to pay looming obligations. 

In the background, fears over rising food and fuel prices and faltering global growth will compete with hopes for further stimulus action from the world's central banks for the hearts and minds of investors. 

North America
The US's data week will begin on Tuesday with the release of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB)'s small business optimism index, producer price index (PPI), business inventories data and retail sales data.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect NFIB's confidence measure to slip slightly from 91.4 in June to 91.3 in July. July's PPI – a measure of producer price increases – is seen rising 0.3%. June's business inventories are seen increasing by 0.1%. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones expect July's retail sales figures to show a 0.3% rise after falling 0.5% in June. 

On Wednesday, investors will be on the lookout for last month's consumer price index (CPI) and industrial production numbers. Consumer inflation is seen rising 0.2%. Industrial production is likely to post a 0.6% rise, up from 0.4% in June. 

Wednesday will also bring this month's Empire State manufacturing index from the New York Federal Reserve and housing market index from the National Association of Home Builders. Both indices are expected to decline. 

On a choc-a-bloc Thursday, July's housing stats are seen easing 1.3% after rising 6.9% in June, but new building permits – an indicator of future construction – likely rose 0.8% last month after falling 3.1% in June. Weekly jobless benefit filings are expected to rise slightly and a regional manufacturing gauge from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve is forecast to show some improvement this month from July's weak reading of -12.9.  

To the US's north, Canada's calendar is light this week. Statistics Canada will release June's manufacturing sales figures on Thursday and July's consumer price index (CPI) on Friday. 

Markets expect that manufacturing sales rebounded to 0.3% monthly growth in June from a surprise 0.4% decline in May. The annual rate of consumer price rises is seen edging up to 1.6% in July from 1.5% in June. 

Markets will get an updated snapshot of the effect Europe's ongoing debt crisis, and the continent's muddled policy response, has had on the region's real economy this week. 

Greece will release gross domestic product (GDP) data on Monday. Figures for France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, the Netherlands, Portugal and the eurozone as a whole will follow on Tuesday. 

Markets expect the numbers to show that Germany – Europe's largest economy – narrowly avoided contraction in the second quarter of 2012; likely having grown a mere 0.1%, quarter on quarter. To date, only one other eurozone member has reported growth in the second quarter. Estonia – the second smallest of the currency bloc's 17-members – released figures last Friday showing a 0.4% expansion. 

Tuesday's data deluge is likely to show that France – the continent's second largest economy – probably shrank 0.2% over the same period and that the Netherlands – the region's fifth largest economy – also contracted. Previously released estimates showed that Italy and Spain – the eurozone's third and fourth largest economies – contracted by 0.8% and 0.4%, respectively. 

With Germany's performance lacklustre at best and the eurozone's other large economies in contraction, the currency bloc as a whole is likely to report that its economy shrank by 0.2%, quarter on quarter, during the three months ended in June. 

If Europe's GDP data is as grim as expected, it is likely to raise expectations that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates further in an attempt to boost growth.

With no major data releases scheduled in China – Asia's largest economy – the region's markets are likely to focus primarily on developments in the United States and Europe this week. But at least one local event will be watched closely. 

On Tuesday, India – Asia's third largest economy – will release July's wholesale price index (WPI), the country's main measure of inflation. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect the index to show that prices rose 7.37% on an annual basis last month, up from a 7.25% increase in June. 

Mounting price pressures may make it more difficult for the Reserve Bank of India – which has raised interest rates 13-times since March 2010 in an attempt to quash stubbornly high inflation – to cut rates in the face of mounting evidence of an economic slowdown. India's economy grew by 5.3% in the first quarter of 2012, the lowest rate of economic growth observed in nine-years and more recent economic indicators have been equally disappointing. 

Elsewhere in the region, Tuesday will also see the release of Japan's tertiary activity index for June, a measure of 11 service industries accounting for roughly 60% of the country's economic output. Markets expect the index to show a 0.3% drop.

Latin America
Mexico's National Statistics Institute (Inegi) will report the country's latest industrial production figures on Monday. Second quarter GDP figures and June's global economic indicator (IGAE) – a monthly proxy for GDP – will follow on Thursday. 

Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones expect industrial production figures to show that year on year output rose 3.7% in June, up from 3.1% growth in May. Automobile manufacturers are likely responsible for much of the ramped up output. Car makers reported a 14% year on year increase in vehicle production in June and an 18% surge in July. 

Markets expect Thursday's GDP figures to show that Mexico's year on year economic growth rate slowed to 4.1% in the April to June quarter from 4.6% in the previous three months of the year. 

Elsewhere in the region, Brazil – South America's largest economy – will release job creation figures and retail sales data on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Formal job creation (CAGED) figures are likely to show that Brazil created 90 000 jobs in July, down from 120 440 positions in June. Retail sales figures are expected to show that year on year sales growth fell from 8.2% in May to 6.4% in June. 

The big item on South Africa's economic calendar this week is Wednesday's release of June's retail sales figures by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). Markets expect the data to show that year on year sales growth fell from 6.4% in May to 4.8% in June. 

Sales rose by 4.7% in the three months to May when compared to the same period last year, but are expected to slow in the months ahead. 

On Thursday, Stats SA will release June's civil cases for debt, wholesale trade, motor trade and building statistics and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) will release its July survey of trade conditions.  

Beyond these data releases, investors will be keeping an eye on South Africa's auction of R2.1-billion in long-term government bonds on Tuesday and Nigeria's sale of 75-billion naira in bonds with maturities of between five and 10-years on Wednesday. 

On the corporate calendar, construction giant Group Five will announce annual results on Monday. Annual results from Truworths and City Lodge Hotels and interim results from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will follow on Wednesday. On Thursday, Standard Bank will release interim results and Harmony Gold will publish fourth quarter and annual results. 

Matt Quigley writes a weekly economic preview for the Mail & Guardian. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattquigley.

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Matt Quigley
Matt Quigley writes the weekly economic preview for the Mail & Guardian. His blog on the South African economy can be found at

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